DALLAS — Families looking to experience the nature of the rain forest can do so just a few hours from Oklahoma City at the Dallas World Aquarium.
At the aquarium, visitors take tours of multiple exhibits recreating natural habitats from around the world.
As visitors walk to the admission booth, they are taken through a winding path that recreates the wilds of the southeast Asian island of Borneo, featuring birds, fish and mammals of the region.
Once visitors go past the main entrance, the rain forest opens before them.
The biodiversity of the rain forest is explored in the Orinoco Secrets of the River exhibit. The exhibit immerses visitors into the world of the South American rain forest, highlighting this important ecosystem.
Endangered animals, including the Orinoco crocodile, are part of the exhibit. Since 2003, more than 100 Orinoco crocodiles have hatched at the aquarium, with 55 returning to their native Venezuela.
In the aquarium portion, marine life including jellyfish and sea dragons impress patrons with their natural beauty.
Outside, black-footed penguins frolic in a South Africa exhibit that recalls their natural habitat.
The Dallas World Aquarium makes it possible for attendees to feel they've stepped back in time with the Mundo Maya exhibit, which recreates the world of the Mayans, including the wildlife that lived in the Mayan region.
The walk-through 40-foot tunnel of the Cenote exhibit features a 400,000-gallon tank filled with sharks, rays, swordfish and other sea creatures present on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Continue your aquatic theme at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas.
The hotel and resort, 4150 N MacArthur Blvd. in Irving, is Texas' only AAA Five Diamond Resort. There are four pools on the property, and family activities are scheduled each weekend.
In summer, Grill 'n' Chill by the Family Pool from 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays offers traditional backyard-style fare, followed by the Dive In Movie, where a family-friendly film is projected on a screen at the pool. Viewers can watch in floats and lounge chairs.
The 400-acre resort property is in Irving, not far from either Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport or Dallas Love Field regional airport.
The 431-room hotel offers golf villas, two 18-hole golf courses and expansive recreational facilities. Tennis fans have multiple courts from which to choose; the hotel also is the host site of the Texas Wild World Team Tennis team.
The hotel features a European-style spa with multiple on-site services, and separate sauna, steam room, whirlpool and cold plunge pool facilities for men and women.
The Dallas World Aquarium, 1801 N Griffin, features three restaurants on-site and can be rented for private events.
The Jungle Cafe, Cafe Maya, and Eighteen-O-One are the featured eateries. The Jungle Cafe features snack bar style food including “jungle dogs,” specially cut hot dogs. Eighteen-O-One features fish-shape pizzas, chicken tenders and mini hamburgers for the kids.
There also are great meals to be had on the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas property.
Cafe on the Green offers American cuisine, including prime beef and fresh daily seafood. Some ingredients come from a herb and vegetable garden near the restaurant.
Bar 19 is a pub-style bar overlooking the Resort Pool; it features billiards, shuffleboard and sports-themed TV and has an excellent hamburger.
Just a few minutes from The Four Seasons is the Ranch at Las Colinas, 857 W John Carpenter Freeway, Irving, which has a menu full of Texas fare, with locally sourced meals following a farm-to-fork program. Honey from Alvin, Texas, and farm-raised shrimp from San Antonio are among the locally sourced foods. The fried chicken — sourced from Nixon, Texas — was a favorite. Venison chili and elk tacos also were highlights.
In the same shopping center area is Pink Frosting Cupcakes, 925 W John Carpenter Freeway, where kids and adults can enjoy cupcake and bread pudding flavors made fresh daily.
Accommodations provided by Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas.